Dog Separation Anxiety: What it is and How to Help Your Pet

Have you ever noticed your dog panicking when left alone at home for a while? Does your dog do this even if you’re only gone for a few minutes? Do you think it’s possible your dog could have separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is common in dogs, especially in those that live indoors. If you know or suspect your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to find the right management plan for this problem as soon as possible. This way, you can get your dog’s symptoms under control and help them feel better as soon as possible, too.

dog separation anxiety

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a condition in which dogs panic or become excessively nervous when their human family members are not at home with them. It is more common in some dogs than in others, but any dog can potentially suffer from this problem.

Separation anxiety may occur in any dog of any age, and it can be caused by a wide variety of problems. Some dogs are prone to this issue from birth, while others only grow more attached to their human family members as they get older.

What Causes Separation Anxiety?

Some of the following can be causes of separation anxiety in dogs.

Lack of Socialization

The biggest cause of separation anxiety in dogs is a lack of socialization at an early age. The more socialized your dog is when young, the more comfortable they will be when left alone when they are older.

Lack of Activity

Without enough physical or mental activity in their everyday life, your dog may become restless and easily frightened, which can lead to separation anxiety as well.

Never Left Alone

If someone in your family is almost always at home with your dog, this can contribute to their separation anxiety when they are finally alone.

What are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms it is possible that they could have separation anxiety.


When your dog is left alone, they may begin pacing back and forth in your home. If you have a camera that lets you watch your pet when they are alone, you may be able to catch this habit in action.

Barking and Howling

Barking and howling when alone are common signs of separation anxiety. Many dogs bark for a few minutes when their human family members leave, but if your dog doesn’t settle on their own very quickly, they may be dealing with anxiety about being left alone.

Bathroom Accidents

Dogs who are left alone and have separation anxiety may frequently urinate or defecate on the floor. This is a nervous habit and should not be punished, but it should be addressed. If your dog shows no other signs of anxiety and is having bathroom accidents, have them checked for a physical health problem before assuming it is related to mental health.

Destructive Behavior

Dogs with separation anxiety frequently chew up furniture or other household items when they’re left alone. This type of destruction should also not be punished but should be handled quickly through the use of training and positive reinforcement.

How Can You Treat Separation Anxiety?

There are a few different options to help your dog with their separation anxiety.


Try leaving your dog alone for just a few minutes at a time. When you return, if they have been quiet and hasn’t destroyed anything in your home, reward your dog with lots of treats and praise. The more you practice this routine, the longer you should be able to leave your dog on their own.

Crate Training

Although crate training is not right for every human or every dog, it can go a long way toward helping your dog combat separation anxiety. When your dog sees their crate as a safe space that is all their own, they will be less frightened when in the crate alone.

Professional Training

A professional trainer can help you figure out the right plan of action to deal with your dog’s separation anxiety. Professional trainers can also teach you redirection tactics and other techniques for keeping your dog’s mind and body both active and engaged more often.

Veterinary Help

In a worst-case scenario, if your dog is extremely anxious and nothing else is working, your veterinarian may recommend medication to help them deal with the anxiety. This option should only be used if you have exhausted other possibilities, but you can talk to your vet for more information.

You Can Help Your Dog with their Separation Anxiety 

Based on this information, you can easily see how challenging separation anxiety may be for many dogs. Although separation anxiety can be difficult to manage, staying on top of the problem can go a long way toward helping you and your pet both relax.

If you have any further questions or concerns about your pet’s health, be sure to talk to your vet for more information. Your vet can help you figure out the best treatment or plan of action to combat your dog’s separation anxiety and help them return to their usual self in no time. To book an appointment with your Heart + Paw veterinarian use our online form, we have many locations to help you and your pet!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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